What is Creativity?

March 20, 2017

Three questions about creativity for those ‘in and outside the tent’

My long-term creativity collaborator Susan Moger came up with three questions worth considering on behalf of those inside the tent (educationalists, practitioners, researchers, and so on) and those who might be attracted into the tent (educationalists, practitioners, researchers, and so on).

Here are Susan’s questions

What is creativity anyway?

Why should I care about it?

Why should I spend my time on it?

The tent metaphor is from a crude expression by President Lyndon Johnson.   [I don’t want to mis-attribute the quote]. Incidentally, LBJ also was reported as saying

“If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.’”

What is creativity?

Returning to the three questions, I have been consistent in my view that each individual has to take a view on the first question, but may be informed by the conclusions reached by many who had studied creativity extensively. The consensus is that there is no clear consensus!

That is not quite as bad as it sounds, and is consistent with the view that truth is always viewed through the lens of personal beliefs. Plato said it with another metaphor about seeking reality by having to interpret shadows on the wall of the cave.

I explained in a lengthy video a few years ago, how you may still hold on to some constant core of belief, even if the precise way you define those beliefs may change with time and experience. If you had the luxury of an hour to space with a good supply of refreshments, you may find it interesting. I recall mostly it was painful, as I sustained an attack of cramp due to being perched on chair too high for me to reach the floor.

Why should I care about it?

Because if you care about anything, you become more alert to possibilities. Creativity, even before we agree about formal definitions, is ‘something about’ how we discover new and useful things – about ourselves and our world. The useful things include life-skills, what we do, and how we might do them better.

There is a case which can be made for creativity being spontaneous. Some ‘Creatives’ [ugh!] worry they may lose their creativity if they (or others) examine it too carefully. I prefer to believe that study helps move from implicit to explicit knowledge. This helps us discover more about how we are creative and how we sometimes fail to create through barriers which are often self-imposed

Why should I spend my time on it?

Partly my answer to question two applies. A further argument is contained in the ironic comment made by Gary Player the golfer, to the effect that the harder he practiced, the luckier he got.

Maybe there is something in the old saying that practice makes perfect. I prefer the point that the wrong sort of practice makes permanent. It takes a special kind of practice (creative practice, maybe?) that leads towards improvement.

Image

From a creativity session in Brazil, ca 2010

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 070.jpg


Sports management: Coaching the coaches

July 20, 2015

Tudor RickardsSport is big business. Do you know how to apply the latest business ideas into your sports management courses?

For over thirty years I have been working with colleagues at Manchester Business School introducing experiential learning ideas into business courses. More recently, we found out that our work with business managers could be transferred into sports management courses.

Why sports management and business management are similar

The discovery was unexpected, but afterwards was rather obvious. It came about when we realized that professional managers and athletes have similar developmental needs.

The Manchester Method approach

The approach was recently described on the MBS website

The Manchester Method is a practical, situation-based way of studying business that runs through all of our programmes.

It pushes you to your limits to bring out your best, focusing on group work, practice-based learning and self-reflection. You use and build on your own experiences to improve your leadership skills and manage complex projects.

Living cases

On important feature of the approach is the use of living cases. The term indicates that the topic under study is not bounded by the text provided.

Web-based work is increasingly important. Students, often working in teams, search for the most recent information of the current situation in each project. The work is evaluated from two perspectives, one its critical understanding, and one for evidence of appreciation of the practical aspects of the case.

In longer projects, a business client brings his or her ‘living case’ into the Business School. In shorter projects the business client is role-played by a tutor. These cases are chosen from the recent posts on leadership to be found in leaders we deserve. These have the added attraction of being updated regularly, giving emphasis to different leadership dilemmas.

A suitable course textbook is Dilemmas of Leadership which encourages students to examine the living cases for the tough decisions business leaders are taking. In its most recent edition, it comes with web based Tutor’s guide, power points and chapter by chapter revision quiz.

Sports based applications

Although the cases are selected for their business relevance, some have been sports-related. The role of the coach in team sports such as football and rowing has been studied, as well as the nature of charismatic leadership of managers and of on-field leaders. Another shared issue is that of Corporate Social Responsibility

For more information

I would be pleased to share experiences with sports management professionals interested in exploring the methods outlined in this post. You can contact me by email by submitting a comment below.


The Manchester Method: A Leaders We Deserve Monograph

May 21, 2015

by Conor Glean

In April 2015, Leaders We Deserve announced the publication of a series of monographs selected from materials published in over a thousand posts over the period 2006-2015 Manchester Method

The Manchester Method is an experiential means of supporting business education which was developed within The Manchester Business School, primarily within its MBA programmes.

It was chosen as the topic of the first monograph in the series, and published by Book Tango in April 2015.

To purchase The Manchester Method you can use various devices such as

Your Kindle/e-reader

The kindle app (downloadable from Apple App Store, Google Play, Microsoft Windows Store)

Or you can use this link

[£3.49]

To purchase directly from Google, search for “The Manchester Method” in Google play, or use this link

[£2.62]

To purchase in PDF, MOBI or EPUB form, use this link

[$4.99]

[Prices may vary and those quoted were available at May 18th 2015]


Mayweather’s secret boxing skills revealed by US Air Force psychologist

May 1, 2015

Floyd Mayweather’s boxing skills are placed under the analytical microscope by psychologist and former US Air Force force and White House Strategist Gary Kline

Floyd Mayweather’s fight with Manny Pacquiao is billed as the the richest bout in boxing history.

The contest itself is of considerable interest for students of sports management and promotion.I want to concentrate on a study made by author and psychologist Gary Klein in his recent book Seeing what others don’t .

Klein had been working on a theory of how insight occur. His interest in sport and boxing had prompted him to study an unexpected result of a fight between Mayweather and the British boxer Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton for the welterweight championship, also for the welterweight championship in Las Vagas [December, 2007].

The contestants had similar records. Neither had lost as a professional boxer.
Hatton was considered the more explosive puncher, Mayweather the consummate boxer.

Hatton’s power threatened Mayweather at the start, although Mayweather, according to Klein hung on, until with two rounds to go, Mayweather launched what Klein saw as a desperate but lucky punch from a defensive position, and with Hatton moving in. Lights out for Hatton.

The end of the fight was as surprising to Klein as it was to Ricky Hatton.

Was it just luck?

Klein took the video of the fight and analysed carefully and repeatedly what had happened. His original view was that he had witnessed a ‘get out of jail break’ by the American.

But as he looked more closely, he finds the pattern which he and Hatton had not. In the early rounds, Hatton’s fierce left hand sweeping hook damaged Mayweather. But Klein began to see how Mayweather pwas increasingly coping in defense. He was learning that the attack brought with it a weakness in defense and was waiting for the time to make his own reply.

It almost worked in round eight. Hatton, tiring, continued his plan, now against an opponent waiting. In round ten, Hatton continued his strategy against a prepared opponent. Mayweather took his second chance. Hatton lost on a technical knockout.

Klein suggested that Mayweather had also analyzed Hatton’s style in advance, but needed to learn it again from experience. It suggests how expertise is acquired.

Other examples

Other examples abound. The unexpected slice of luck may be open to another interpretation. It may be the reaction of a goal keeper saving a penalty, or a great tennis player ‘guessing where an opponent’s serve or reply is going or even a strong chess player playing a move likely to induce an error rather than a technically sounder move.

Klein suggests his own change of belief, from seeing a lucky punch, to seeing a process of experiential learning, weakens the ‘aha’ theory of insight.

It also helps those interested in the fight to see what is going on in a different light.


Taking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach

April 15, 2015

Tudor Rickards and Rebecca Baron

Louis van GaalTaking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach was prepared as an experiential  workshop conducted within the Fifth National Medical Leadership conference 17th April 2015 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton

The workshop format offered participants an opportunity to examine and to share tough decisions and reflect on how to deal with them. The ‘split half’ design meant that we presented twice, each to half the delegates, and simultaneously with a presentation on  the increasingly well-known approach on Managing your Chimp .

Our own contribution drew on the experiential learning approach developed at The Manchester Business School, and particularly in workshops around the world for executive MBA courses since 2007.  A key aspect is encouragement for the process of creating and reflecting on  ‘living cases’ from current leadership events from various sources, including sports management, business, and everyday social situations.

Further details can be found in a recent post

This post provides pre-workshop material primarily for participants, and will be concluded after the event.

Key aspects

As we designed the workshop, we wanted to find a way of combining the MBS approach with the anticipated wide range of issues relevant to participants. We settled for a format which invited discussion around:

Conceptual map making

Leader as management of dialog and management of meaning

Dialog and dilemmas [when you engage with others who have different ‘mind maps’]

Engagement through creating and exploring ‘living cases’

Skills for dealing with tough decisions creatively [yes and…; insights through lateral thinking approaches, perception is a map not the territory]

Supporting visuals

Our supporting visuals can be seen here as Taking tough decisions

To be concluded


“What did you do after your MBA?”

February 2, 2015

MBS 2016

MBA Paul Hinks interviewed by LWD editor Tudor Rickards

LWD Editor Tudor Rickards catches up with MBA graduate Paul Hinks and asks about personal development gains since his costly investment

I suppose a declaration of interest is called for from your editor as interviewer. I have been compiling a collection of LWD blog posts about The Manchester Method, an approach to experiential learning of which I have been a long-time advocate. Furthermore, Paul after his MBA became a regular contributor to LWD, so he may be considered a special case (or maybe a convenience sample of one). I may have asked some leading questions, but Paul’s responses have not been edited to obtain the sort of answers I was hoping for.

The interview took place over the period January 30th-31st 2015.

The Manchester Method

TR: Before getting into the wider issues I want to know if there was much mention of the Manchester Method when you did your MBA? I don’t want to claim more than it really is/was. Assuming you heard of it, was it by Tutors? Marketing? Name names.

PH: Before completing my application for the Manchester MBA I attended an information session held at the Manchester campus. I remember ‘The Manchester Method’ was referenced a number of times during the discussion with an emphasis placed on the practical element of the Manchester MBA ‘learning through doing’. At the welcome meeting to launch the programme ‘The Manchester Method’ was referenced again by the Course Director [Professor Elaine Ferneley].

As I worked through the Manchester MBA I began to appreciate that it was more than just words, or some ‘catch-phrase’. The values and ethos are absolutely ingrained in to the personality of the programme.

Reflecting back the Manchester MBA process can be quite a humbling experience. Sure, there’s the academic material, but the practical elements of the programme provoke some deeper questions. It’s really up to the individual to decide how much they want to explore those personal blind spots. If you are willing to step outside your comfort zone the Manchester MBA provides a safe vehicle to reflect and learn more about yourself.

TR:  It would be interesting if you can illustrate drawing on yourself as part of a ‘living case’. Can you draw on a specific example?

PH: Applying MBA material to unstructured, complex ‘wicked problems’ from the workplace has helped to raise my own profile in my organisation.  Earlier this month I delivered a presentation to our International Leadership Team drawing on material from several different MBA modules. The feedback I received was very positive. I felt the academic lens provided credibility to the message I was aiming to communicate.

One week later I used a slightly revised version to deliver the same message in a company-wide all-employee conference call to United Kingdom and Ireland staff. Again the feedback was positive.

I used material from the Manchester programme to highlight how people have different perspectives of the same situation – how they these offer different solutions based on how they understand and perceive their ‘worlds’. Acknowledging this premise, I worked through an academic framework to explain how I saw the problem – the framework I used enabled me to paint a picture of the situation we were all trying to understand and address. My structure helped me to deliver what you would describe as a platform of understanding.

I was pleased with the outcome. As a project team we now have some clear next steps and confirmation of commitment (I believe) from the corporate leadership internationally.

What sort of learning …?

 TR: As you mention the broader MBA I wonder what sorts of learning and change have taken place in your approach at work? And at home Is ‘leading’ a team of young children connected in any way to this?

PH: It’s worth making special reference to ‘The Reflective Manager’ module run by Mark Winters. I felt the material that Mark delivers really challenges individuals to reflect on their actions, and also to reflect in action – the concepts are powerful. It takes time to digest the deeper messages, but there is so much in this module that echo the sentiments laid out in “The Manchester Method” and ultimately helped me question my own raison d’etre.

TR: Mark’s work is much influenced by Peter Checkland, a pioneer in the use of systems theory applied to action research The   MBA was not a process for you that ended with a piece of paper?

PH: Personal growth has always been important to me – it would certainly have been easier to have taken a more reticent view, and overlook the opportunity to pursue Manchester’s MBA. I believe it’s really down to the individual to take ownership of their personal development – it isn’t the responsibility of the firm, or anyone else – it’s down to the individual.

Working through the Manchester MBA started as something of a personal challenge – the process is tough, but it becomes more familiar. You learn to adapt. I started to take time to reflect and examine my own performance. Was it what I expected? Where could I have done better? I learned more about myself and started to measure my own progress in different ways. My personal priorities changed along the way too. my understanding of what a work life balance means to me. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending time relaxing, or going to the gym more. Sure these are important, but I also found researching and reading more deeply into situations was also of greater interest to me than perhaps I’d previously realized.

The challenge is in how best to apply that learning every day in both the workplace and also with my family life.

Linking theory with practice

TR: You like to explore ideas. I notice you refer to new maps such as distributed leadership. Reading and lectures tend to focus on explicit knowledge. Might the MBS approach encourage learning through linking theory with practice. Nonaka and Teguchi have a tacit-to- explicit ‘map’ of this.

PH: I believe our experiences help shape who we are; I see knowledge as the cornerstone to understanding and making sense of those experiences. Nonaka and Teguchi provide insight into knowledge creation which maps back to the discussion about how best to capture and acquire our tacit knowledge and how we can then attempt to codify this knowledge and make it explicit.

‘Learning through doing’ takes concepts and theory and embeds knowledge and learning through practical application. I believe it’s effective. The process is pragmatic. Delegates apply their learning to case material either as an individual or as part of a group. So you are encouraged to read around the subject and more able to challenge and critique everything, before looking ahead to suggest future outcomes.

Since finishing the MBA, I’ve continued to research and read material. I’ve contributed material to the Leaders We Deserve blog. Recently I blogged about Distributed Leadership as one contemporary lens though which we can explore how social media is effective in bringing desperate groups together. I enjoy the process of applying frameworks to real life scenarios.

Personal change

TR: What sort of personal changes might you be aware of?

PH: I believe The Manchester MBA helps you to think more strategically. It provides you with the confidence and insight to defend your point of view robustly and also to be able to challenge others and perhaps build on initial thoughts and ideas in a constructive way. .

I believe I have become conscious of the traits and characteristics that other see in you – and also where your areas of development remain. Conversely you see the other people’s traits, their strengths, how they can contribute. For the record, I do not see the MBA as some guaranteed ticket to a C-level destination or another level of perceived success. It’s an education that provides you with a credible and powerful toolbox which I believe can significantly help your decision-making.

The Manchester MBA also delivered me with a trusted network of friends and colleagues only an email or phone call away. We think in a similar way, I trust and value their opinion and judgement. They’re good contacts and I know they’ll succeed and do well in their chosen careers.

Social media and technology

TR: I know that you think a lot about the emerging world of social media, technological change and so on. Any comments?

PH: I see opportunities for firms to take advantage of social technologies that are prevalent in our social communities and which leverage those technologies more in the workplace.

I’ve found myself reading around the subject and using the MBA material to explore different perspectives around Social Media – where are the gaps in current thinking? Where are the opportunities for change? Mobile Technology is now mature and ubiquitous, supporting developments into ‘big data’ generation. Data privacy is another contentious issue with potential ethical implications. But the associated commercial opportunities are huge.

Those with the ability to mine big data effectively and efficiently will soon know more about our personal preferences than perhaps we might welcome.

These are exciting times – I believe we’ll reflect on this current technology period and see the exploitation of social and mobile technology as a paradigm shift – in the same that we saw computing power move away from the mainframe in the 1970s and early 1980s to the distributed computing model. There’s huge momentum; it’s compounded by a generation that is growing up this social and mobile technologies as their preferred ways of communicating.

Personal development

TR: Looking ahead, are you thinking of more personal development? What issues interest you?

PH: I see technology as continuing to deliver advantage to firms that understand how best to use it for collaboration, team working, the creation and sharing of knowledge. Technology, Business, Leadership, Sport – these are really my main areas of interest. I remember my Managerial Economics module and the emphasis [Course tutor] Xavier placed on ‘interdependence’ – that there isn’t a binary switch that we can flick to provide a clearly defined path or outcome.

 

TR: Paul, thank you very much. I’m sure you will continue to demonstrate ‘what did you do after your MBA’ as an example of learning through doing.

EDITOR’S NOTES

Image of ‘The New MBS’ is an artist’s impression from 2011. The building work is well underway at the start of 2015.

Paul wrote as an MBS graduate, but we both agreed that the basic principles outlined apply to MBAs more generally. The Manchester Method remains a branded version of the experiential components of MBAs under various titles.

Comments are particularly welcomed for this post.


Dilemmas for Doctoral candidates

October 4, 2014

Doctoral candidates face the two challenges of making a contribution to knowledge and of defending their claims against the toughest of scrutiny. The methodology of conceptual mapping and examination of dilemmas offers an additional research approach

The principles were outlined in 2006 in the first edition of the book Dilemmas of Leadership, a post-graduate teaching text. An earlier LWD post gives a brief overview.

The approach

The approach draws on a social constructional treatment of knowledge generation and validity testing. In its initial use, it was offered to business executives to assist in their evaluation of leadership texts. In this post, it illustrates a way of simplifying the epistemology offered on doctoral courses in business and the social sciences. In its earlier application, executive MBA students are encouraged to study emerging leadership news stories, deriving a conceptual map from each. This ‘map reading’, like any life skill, improves with active and regular practice. ‘Map-testing’ includes processes found in research methods courses for investigating the reliability of the information and its validity. These two processes feed into the third, in which the derived and tested maps of a story are examined and compared with the personal map of the student. This process permits personal and experiential learning. Termed ‘map making’ this is the revised map of the student beliefs about leadership for personal reflection and class discussion.

Beyond the basic system A range of additional procedures are introduced to support the basic system. These include a search for dilemmas as significant hard-to-resolve decisions confronting the actors in the stories, these include the personal dilemmas for the student (‘the most important leader you study is yourself’).

Extending the process to doctoral research The process offers possibilities for modification for direct application in research studies even at the level of doctoral investigations. A workshop opportunity has arisen which will be reported here in a future post.

Update for Doctoral students The brief for the doctoral workshop was The Evolution of Leadership and Management and its links with Theories of Organisation: Bringing it all together. The syllabus indicated that the workshop follows the student’s journey through different perspectives on organisation and management theory (modernism, scientific management & Bureaucracy); neo-modernism (human relations and culture management); critical perspectives; postmodernist organisation theory). Students were advised to revise these topics to be prepared for discussion at the workshop.

Further updates

Further updates will report on the workshop and add discussion points from subscribers.

October 24th 2014

An illustration of the mapping approach applied to a leadership text which asks the question ‘are managers sacked for breaking the rules and leaders sacked for not breaking them?’

November 1st, 2014

Bridging the gap between the empirical and the social

One substantial difficulty for doctoral students is the gulf between the methods of enquiry in the empirical sciences and the social sciences. The former retains the methodology of the dominant rational model. This perspective is one I acquired in my schooldays and have retained as a technical manager trained to examine technical and economic problems through the methodology of scientific inquiry.

My attraction to a second approach involving the methodology of the social sciences grew, as I became familiar with the ideas of the social construction of reality. Nevertheless, I felt that moving completely from a scientific to a social scientific approach was likely to be switching from one horn of a dilemma to another.

November 3rd 2014

Two authors helped me find a way of bridging the gap.

The first was Professor Gail Fairhurst in her book Discursive Leadership in which she shows how social constructionist approaches are able to co-exist successfully with the more dominant model of cognitive psychology.

The second insight came from the work into what Jim Collins called ‘the  Genius of the And’.  Fairhurst and Collins had in quite different ways addressed a way of dealing with dilemmas. In each case, the approach was a form of creativity to escape from ‘either-or’ thinking.  The outcome is a bridging of the gap between the dominant rational model of the sciences and the social constructionist approach of the social scientist

January 5th 2015

This leadership case is a nice way to test understanding of ways of applying a qualitative analysis